/Is Airbnb’s China rival Tujia right on track for global expansion?

Is Airbnb’s China rival Tujia right on track for global expansion?

As Chinese tourists are becoming a driving force in the tourism industry, the competition among vacation rental startups are also getting heated. Tujia, often viewed as China’s Airbnb, is sparing no effort to secure its overseas market share and directly competing against its U.S. rival Airbnb.

Tujia may have some advantages on its home turf with its familiarity of the market here. However, global expansion is another story, and this startup knows how to play it right. Ascending to unicorn status with a USD 300 million Series D financing round in 2015, Tujia resorts to the market it is familiar with and chases the flocks of Chinese tourists traveling abroad.

Tujia began its services in 2011 and launched overseas property rental on its platform in December 2012. Currently, the website offers accommodation in 335 cities domestically and 450,000 rooms in 67 countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore, according to the Nikkei Asian Review.

Tujia offers various kinds of accommodation in Asia. Screenshot from tujia.com.
Tujia offers various kinds of accommodation in Asia. Screenshot from tujia.com.

Aside from connecting property owners with travelers like what Airbnb does, Tujia offers tourists other options as well. Many of its properties are managed by the company, providing users a basic level of service in these homes such as towels and bath supplies.

By offering services tailored for Chinese people, Tujia hopes to outflank global sharing economy giant Airbnb. One of the tricks is to equip its lodgings with electric rice cookers and provide emergency services such as seeing a doctor or claiming lost property.

With more affordable prices as compared to hotels and services catered to Chinese tourists, Tujia seems to be on the right track. Its Japan branch which was established just a year ago has seen bookings quadrupled, according to a recent CNN interview with the company’s co-founder Melissa Yang. “We know China travelers the best,” Yang told CNN. “We follow whatever Chinese travelers want.”

The Chinese startup’s website has some 5,000 listings in Japan now, and the amount has nearly doubled in the past three months, while Airbnb still leads the way for short-term accommodation in Japan with over 50,000 lodgings, Nikkei Asian Review reported.

“Tujia has a large user base of high-income and well-educated users,” said Zhuang Hai, Tujia’s Senior Vice President (SVP), in an interview with AllChinaTech earlier this year. “They trust Tujia with its domestic properties and are willing to try out our overseas ones.”

Even though Tujia has shown great ambition to expand globally, its U.S. rival remains strong. Airbnb has 3 million listings worldwide, whereas Tujia runs 20,000 properties outside of China. Tujia indeed has a lot more to do with its overseas expansion.

(Top photo from Pixabay)

Timmy contributes at AllChinaTech. He's passionate about photography, education, food and all things tech. He holds a master's degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.